Tel Aviv University scientists have succeeded in developing a groundbreaking method to produce green hydrogen. The method, developed by doctoral student Itzhak Grinberg and by Dr. Oren Ben-Zvi, claims to have over 90% efficiency by harnessing the power of green electricity and utilizing a highly efficient biocatalyst.
The research is founded upon the rare instances in which atmospheric hydrogen is produced by enzymes in microscopic organisms, which receive energy through photosynthesis.
‘No need for extreme conditions’
The project was set up under the guidance of Prof. Iftach Yacoby of the School of Plant Sciences and Food Security at the Faculty of Life Sciences and Prof. Lihi Adler-Abramovich of the School of Dental Medicine and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
Itzhak explained that electrifying the enzymes to provide energy rather than the sun results in a “particularly efficient process, with no demand for extreme conditions, that can utilize electricity from renewable sources such as solar panels or wind turbines”.
Over 90% efficiency
“However, the enzyme ‘runs away’ from the electric charge, so it needs to be held in place through chemical treatment,” the researchers explained. So they used a water-based gel to attach an enzyme to the electrode, enabling them to produce green hydrogen with over 90% efficiency, meaning 90% of the electrons introduced into the system were deposited in the hydrogen without any secondary processes.
Now, the team hopes this research could enable the low-cost, commercial production of green hydrogen, which will dramatically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
‘Clean energy source’
Hydrogen plays a vital role as raw material in both agriculture and industry. However, most of the hydrogen produced globally, approximately 95%, falls in the ‘black’ or ‘gray’ category. These types of hydrogen are derived from coal or natural gas, emitting a significant 9-12 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of hydrogen produced.
Dr. Oren Ben-Zvi: “Today, ‘green’ hydrogen is produced primarily through electrolysis, which requires precious and rare metals such as platinum and water distillation. It makes the green hydrogen up to 15 times more expensive than the polluting ‘grey’ one. We hope that in the future, it will be possible to employ our method commercially, to lower the costs, and to switch toward using green hydrogen in industry, agriculture, and as a clean energy source.”